On appeal from: [2010] EWHC 61 (QB)

The appellant in this case challenged the rule that an expert witness enjoyed immunity from any form of civil action arising from the evidence he or she gave in the course of proceedings.

Held: by a majority (Lord Hope and Lady Hale dissenting), allowing the appeal. The primary rationale for the immunity was a concern that an expert witness might be reluctant to give evidence contrary to his client’s interest, in breach of his duty to the court, if there was a risk that this might lead his client to sue him. In common with advocates, however, there was no conflict between the duty that the expert had to provide services to his client with reasonable skill and care, and the duty he owed to the court. The removal of immunity for advocates had not diminished their readiness to perform their duty, nor had there been a proliferation of vexatious claims or multiplicity of actions. The majority concluded that no justification had been shown for continuing to hold expert witnesses immune from suit for breach of duty (whether in contract or in negligence). This decision did not affect the continuation of absolute privilege from claims in defamation, nor did it undermine the longstanding immunity of other witnesses in respect of litigation.

For judgment, please download: [2011] UKSC 13
For the Court’s press summary, please download: Press Summary
For a non-PDF version of the judgment, please visit: BAILII